Latest Food Labeling Bills Manufacturers Need to Know

Custom labeled food products

Two new food labeling bills have been making headlines lately, and if passed, will have a major impact on the food industry. The first is a GMO food labeling bill that was passed by Congress and President Obama; the second is the Food Date Labeling Act of 2016 that aims to reduce food waste through more accurate date labels. In this article, we’ll discuss these two latest developments so manufacturers and consumers can have a deeper understanding of the food labeling changes coming their way.

GMO Food Labeling Bill Passes Congress

Two years ago, Vermont passed a bill requiring foods with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to be properly labeled with that information starting on July 1, 2016. The law intensified the GMO labeling debate between food manufacturers, state and federal governments, and consumers, but it looks like a compromise will soon be reached. A week after Vermont’s law went into effect, the Senate passed a bill governing national GMO labeling requirements as a workaround for manufacturers and retailers who are having a difficult time complying with states’ varying labeling requirements. Soon after, the House of Representatives passed the bill which was then sent to President Obama for final approval and signed on July 29.

According to the bill, companies will be permitted to disclose GMO ingredients through one of these three options:

  • List GMO ingredients on the package using words
  • Use a symbol (to be created by the USDA) to indicate GMO ingredients
  • Use a barcode option, such as a QR code, compatible with smartphone technology to inform consumer of GMO ingredients

The Department of Agriculture will be responsible for overseeing GMO labeling and has two years to work out all the details of the bill and write up the rules. Regardless of which labeling option a manufacturer chooses, GMO information must be placed on the packages of all applicable food products.

Congress Announces the Food Date Labeling Act of 2016

If you’re like most consumers, you’ve probably been confused by “Sell by,” “Best by,” and other types of expiration dates on food products. Not only can these varying statements be perplexing, manufacturers have different standards and meanings for these dates which can cause even more head-scratching. Due to the confusion around expiration dates, a large quantity of food in the United States ends up getting thrown out even though it’s usually still good. A whopping 40 percent of the food we produce in the U.S. gets thrown away!

That’s why the Food Date Labeling Act was recently announced to put an end to consumer uncertainty about whether or not their food is safe to eat. The legislation proposes standardized language for retail packaging, such as:

  • “Best if used by” indicates peak quality for shelf-stable foods, and
  • “Expires on” sets a firm time limit for riskier foods like raw meat, fish and eggs.

Food policy advocates believe these changes will save millions of tons of food from going needlessly into the garbage. But these changes aren’t only good for consumers and the environment, they’re beneficial to manufacturers as well. Giving consumers more accurate and consistent information will help build confidence in manufacturers since they’ll be abiding by a uniform standard.

These changes, and others like the new Nutrition Facts design, indicate a larger trend in the food industry towards transparency to help consumers make better informed purchase decisions. Keeping up with these changes, however, can be difficult for food manufacturers since regulations evolve due to new scientific research and consumer concern. It’s important to have a label printing company that understands these challenges and are agile with their products and services. Our customer service team would be happy to help you with your food labels, whether you need new or updated labels to comply with new regulations.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 14, 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.